Written by Adam Stewart, True Lacrosse Ohio Boy’s State Director
“Play is intrinsically motivated and leads to active engagement and joyful discovery.”
The above definition is provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics and should be posted on every youth lacrosse field in the country. It should be the defining words of every youth lacrosse league mission statement, and it should be a requirement for all families that have young people playing our sport to sign off on this approach.
Let the kids play.
Our main goal is to not focus on winning. This is especially true at the youth levels. I know that by saying this, there will be plenty of eye-rolls and shrugs because of the “what’s the point of playing if we aren’t keeping score” perspective our society views sports through. But recognize that I did not say that winning and losing doesn’t matter. I simply stated that it is not the focus, and here is why.
Develop Talent and Skills Through Repetition and Practice.
The willingness to practice comes from one of two places. It either comes from a motivation to “win” and “make my parents proud”. The other place it comes from is a motivation to be the best version of oneself. It teaches children to measure their true growth and value by the internal satisfaction and knowing they played their best. We should be celebrating growth and development, not just when we win a game.
Let Them Succeed
If we want to give our kids the best chance to find long term and sustained success, we must let go of some control and allow them to play and embrace failure as an opportunity for growth. But we only do this by changing the lens through which we see and measure failure and success.
Success in youth lacrosse is creating an environment that allows kids to discover what they love about the sport. Allowing them to discover their unique passion for the sport will set the stage for their long term growth and success.
Success in youth lacrosse is embracing a growth mindset. As a coach, it’s our job to instill that in the young boys and girls.
Success in youth lacrosse is measured by how many kids play for your program next year, not by how many games your team has won.
Create a Culture That Embraces Commitment
If we create a culture that embraces the commitment to play, builds intrinsic motivation, and is purpose-driven, we will find ourselves with more players having fun and enjoying the practice. In turn, they will become better players and teammates. Happy and dedicated players tend to yield more wins- on the scoreboard, in the classroom, and in life.
“If parents and coaches want to give children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, they don’t have to be slaves of praise or outcomes. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” – Carol Dweck
Let the kids play.